Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leaked Documents Claim Reputed former Philadelphia Mob Boss Joey Merlino's Back In the Game

Howard Altman and William Bender at the Philadelphia Daily News report on the release of an FBI memo that warns law enforcement officals that the reputed former boss of the Philadelphia Cosa Nostra crime family may be getting back into organized crime.

Even as Joey Merlino was settling into a South Florida halfway house last summer after 12 years in prison, the FBI issued a confidential alert warning law-enforcement officials that the former Philadelphia mob boss might try to set up shop in the Miami area with some of his old associates. 

The memo was contained in the first batch of some five million emails being released by the anti-secrecy group Wikileaks - including several FBI alerts obtained by a Texas-based private-intelligence firm on topics ranging from biker gangs to al Qaeda's English-language website.

"As of March 2011, former Philadelphia (La Cosa Nostra) crime family boss, Joseph 'Skinny Joe' Merlino, appears to be restoring and developing significant relationships for a potential South Florida crew," read the Situational Information Report put out by the FBI's Miami office last June. "Reportedly, he may become involved in illicit gambling/bookmaking activities again."

You can read the rest of the story via the below ink to 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Bonnie Sells Out Clyde In Atlantic City Abduction, Carjacking And Murder Case

George Anastasia, the Philadelphia Inquirer's veteran crime reporter, offers an interesting video report on the "bloody and bumbling" crime spree by a modern "Bonnie and Clyde" criminal duo.

The crime spree ended with the abduction, carjacking and brutal murder of a man in Atlantic City.

Anastasia reports that "Bonnie," Jessica Kisby, has become a witness against her boyfriend and partner in crime, "Clyde,"  Craig Arno. The two are shown in the above photo.

You can watch the Crime Scene video via the below link:

DEA Aims Big In Cardinal Health Painkiller Case

Donna Leinwand Leger at offers an interesting piece about the DEA's strategy to attack the prescription drug abuse problem at the highest levels.

This month, the DEA accused Cardinal Health, a Fortune 500 company with $103 billion in revenue, of endangering the public by selling excessive amounts of oxycodone to four Florida pharmacies. The charges came in an immediate suspension order served Feb. 3 when the agency suspended Cardinal's license to distribute controlled substances from its Lakeland, Fla., hub, which serves four states.

Cardinal challenged the suspension in federal court. U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton temporarily halted the DEA's suspension and scheduled a hearing for Wednesday. In preparation for the hearing, the DEA and Cardinal have filed hundreds of pages of documents that provide an inside look into how prescription painkillers such as oxycodone and hydrocodone have flooded the black market.

The investigation into Cardinal led the DEA to suspend the licenses of four of the company's largest Florida customers, including Gulf Coast and two CVS pharmacies in Sanford, Fla. Like Cardinal, CVS challenged the suspensions in federal court.

The suspensions are an aggressive display of the DEA's strategy to attack the prescription drug abuse problem at the highest levels. After years of cracking down on doctors who dispense drugs from clinics known as pill mills, DEA agents are targeting the top of the supply chain as part of a comprehensive strategy to stop the flow of prescription drugs to street dealers.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Inside the Mind of General Petraeus

Jamie Weinstein at the Daily Caller interviews Paula Broadwell, the author of a new book on General David Petraeus, who now serves as the director of the CIA.

History will remember retired Army General David Petraeus, now director of the Central Intelligence Agency, as “the model soldier-scholar-diplomat,” argues Paula Broadwell, author of the recently released “All In: The Education of General David Petraeus.”

He was “the top-rated soldier in every one of his assignments over nearly 40 years,” Broadwell said in an interview with The Daily Caller.

“It clearly was not a coincidence or accident that he was selected for six straight commands as a general officer, five of them in combat.”

But his battlefield success was matched by his intellectual achievements, she argues.

You can read the rest of the interview via the below link:

Monday, February 27, 2012

My Crime Beat Column: American Con: The Vietnam Heroin Cadaver Connection Never Happened

In American Gangster, a film that claims to be based on the true story of Harlem drug kingpin Frank Lucas, heroin is smuggled into America in the coffins of soldiers who died in the Vietnam War.

This is one of the more outrageous claims Lucas made to the gullible film makers and various journalists.

And in fact Lucas testified against his criminal family members, and not, as the film claims, crooked law enforcement officers.

Considering all the phony stories Lukas sold film makers and reporters, the film about Lukas should have been titled American Con rather than American Gangster.

In the latest issue of Vietnam magazine, retired DEA Special Agent Charles H. Lutz debunks Lukas' story about a "Cadaver Connection."

"I should know," Lutz writes in Vietnam magazine. "I was one of the criminal investigators who helped end the so-called Asian connection."

Lutz writes that Leslie "Ike" Atkinson, a former soldier who remained in Southeast Asia after leaving the Army, was hardly Lucas' lackey, as he was portrayed in the film. Atkinson, called "the fat man,' smuggled heroin in duffel bags and later in the false bottom of "AWOL" bags, the carry on bag servicemen always carried when traveling.

An army inspector later discovered heroin hidden in furniture, but never in coffins of dead servicemen.

According to Lutz's piece, Atkinson told investigative journalist Ron Chepesiuk that Lucas' claim of a cadaver connection was "the big lie...the biggest hoax ever perpetuated.'

Chepesiuk later wrote a book called Sergeant Smack: The Legendary Lives and Times of Ike Atkinson, Kingpin, and His Band of Brothers. 

The film American Gangster also pumps up the accomplishments of the detective who investigated Lucas and there is a crooked detective character with the street name "Babyface," which is clearly based on Robert Leuci, the NYPD detective whose life was portrayed in the outstanding book and film Prince of the City.

I interviewed Leuci a while back and he told me that he hated the film. He said he had nothing to do with Frank Lucas, as he worked in Brooklyn, not Harlem.

"The people who wrote that spent no time doing any kind of research on it," Leuci said. "They had this great story and they turned it into a movie. This guy Jacobson, who wrote the magazine piece and wrote the screenplay, is totally full of shit."
Leuci said Lucas used his name because he was well known due to Prince of the City. He said his name is on the card the detective in the film gives to Lucas.
" I had federal protection during that time... I was working for Giuliani at the Southern District of New York, and if any of that was true, Giuliani would have crucified me. Those guys should be ashamed of themselves. It’s all bullshit."
One can say that American Gangster is fiction, only a movie. But the film, the film makers and Lucas all claim the film is based on Lucas' true story.

The idea of smuggling drugs in the coffins of slain servicemen is offensive to military people, the families of the slain servicemen, veterans, and I hope, any decent person. Thankfully, this never happened.

Despite the claims made in the film and by Lucas and the film makers in interviews, American Gangster is pure fiction.

Note: You can read the full Leuci interview via the below link:

You can also read the story in Vietnam magazine via the below link:

Scottish Crime Writer Val McDermid Celebrates 25th Novel

Steve Hendry at the British newspaper the Sunday Mail offers a story on popular crime novelist Val McDermid looking back at her beginnings as a crime writer.

The best-selling crime author's latest book, The Retribution, is her 25th in almost 25 years and is likely to add to her 10million sales worldwide.

But while her plan has come together in spectacular style, the landmark came as a surprise to the 56-year-old Fifer.

She said: "When I was writing it, it was just this year's book. It was only after I finished I thought, 'This is the 25th.' I couldn't quite believe it.

"It doesn't feel like I have that length of work behind me. I don't quite understand how it happened.

You can read the rest of the story via the below link:

You can also read my Philadelphia Inquirer review of McDermid's latest novel The Retribution via the below link:

Sunday, February 26, 2012

U.S. Coast Guard's Wide-Ranging Mission Set Increasing, Commandant Says

By Karen Parrish, American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 24, 2012 - If something touches the nation's waters, the "multi-mission" Coast Guard probably has some responsibility for it, according to that service's only four-star officer.

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Robert J. Papp Jr. told the Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Service the complex mission set has evolved over the service's 221-year history, since Congress in 1790 authorized the building of 10 vessels to enforce federal tariff laws and prevent smuggling.

"We were the maritime force of the nation when the nation couldn't afford a Navy," Papp said, noting the Coast Guard predates the Navy by four years. Over time, he added, the Coast Guard has amassed a wide range of responsibilities: stopping drugs, saving lives, screening and inspecting vessels, maintaining aids to navigation, enforcing fisheries laws and pollution standards, and even searching foreign ports for sources of harm to the United States.

The admiral said he sums up the service's 11 statutory missions this way: "We protect those who use the sea, we protect the nation against threats from the sea, and we protect the sea itself."

The admiral said to meet those missions, a "good Coastie" needs specific qualities, some of which – such as patriotism and selfless service -- are common to service members of all branches. The defining characteristic for Coast Guardsmen, he added, is a love and understanding of the sea in its turbulent moods.

"You have to understand that everything that occurs on the ocean ... is multiplied in terms of difficulty, particularly when you're doing it at night or in the midst of a storm," Papp said. "And that's when the Coast Guard gets its work done."

Looping back to the mission mix, the commandant said adaptability is the other Coast Guard essential.

"Rather than be able to focus just on defense, or just on law enforcement, a Coast Guardsman's got to be versatile ... and have some level of knowledge and competency in a broad range of activities," he explained.

The admiral noted a Coast Guard cutter crew's January rescue of six Iranian mariners in waters off Iraq highlights one of the service's lesser-known efforts.

"A lot of people say, 'You're the Coast Guard; what are you doing over there?'" he noted. "[But] it's not just U.S. coasts. There are a lot of coasts around the world ... [and] we offer the United States options in terms of national security."

Papp said most people don't realize the Coast Guard has operated in the northern Arabian Gulf for nine years, filling "a niche capability for the Department of Defense that Central Command needed."

Iraq has offshore oil platforms that produce 90 percent of the country's wealth, but a territorial dispute between Iraq and Iran means those platforms are under constant threat, he explained. Coast Guard patrol boats, along with Navy patrol craft, provide security for those platforms under command of the Coast Guard's Patrol Forces for Southwest Asia, he said.

"That's just one example of Coast Guard people overseas," he said.

The Coast Guard pushes the boundaries of the United States' maritime security, the commandant said, because port security begins where ships that end up in U.S. ports start out -- places like Rotterdam, in the Netherlands, and Singapore.

Papp said since 9/11, the Coast Guard –- as the nation's representative to the United Nations International Maritime Organization -- has pushed for treaties to help in increasing America's port security.

"We now are able to send inspectors overseas to verify the security procedures in the ports of countries that wish to trade with the United States," he said. That effort involves a couple of dozen U.S.-based traveling inspectors and small Coast Guard commands, each also about two dozen strong, in Europe and the Far East.

"That is really what I view as a low-cost effort ... to help provide security," Papp said.

U.S. ports are the other end of the Coast Guard's layered port security.

"We've done a great job over the last 10 years in restoring and rebuilding our boat fleet in the ports, repopulating our Coast Guard stations and sectors, and creating something we call deployable specialized forces ... which are basically [special weapons and tactics] teams afloat," he said.

Papp said he worries about maritime security's "middle layer" -- vast expanses of ocean.

"Our country needs to have a persistent presence to intercept any identified threats that might be coming toward the United States," he said. "That's really our weak point right now."

High-endurance ships that can stay on station and survive the weather are critical to that middle range, he said, and the large Coast Guard cutters built to provide that presence are now more than 40 years old.

"They're falling apart, they're very expensive to maintain, and we need to be about the process of getting those rebuilt," Papp said.

The constricting federal budget will make that "very difficult," he acknowledged.

"We've always liked to consider ourselves a lean and agile force," the commandant said. "But ... because people keep pushing responsibilities to [us,] [we] end up doing more with less, which is something that's cursed us over the years."

The Coast Guard's increased missions are within the service's capabilities, but not its funding, Papp said.

"Unless somebody's going to infuse massive amounts of money into the Coast Guard budget, we can't handle this on our own," the admiral said. "We'll do the best we can with the resources we have, and I will identify the resources that are needed for our country, but then we've got to come up with an all-of-government solution."

The Coast Guard has worked hard since 9/11 to build its uniformed strength back to what it was in 1990, Papp said. "But we've taken on a whole lot more responsibilities over the last 10 years as well," he added.

Note: I wrote a piece on the Coast Guard for Counterterrorism magazine a while back. You can read my piece via the below links:

I also wrote a column about my visit to the U.S. Coast Guard station in Philadelphia and my ride aboard a Coast Guard boat on the Delaware River.

You can read my column via the below link:

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Vladimir Putin: The Godfather of a Mafia Clan

Mick Brown at the British newspaper the Telegraph wrote an interesting piece about Masha Gessen, the author of a new book on Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

Gessen’s book, The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin, provides a compelling and exhaustive portrait of a man who rose without trace from being a minor KGB and St Petersburg bureaucrat to become what Gessen describes as 'the godfather of a mafia clan’, who has amassed a personal fortune that in 2007 was estimated by one Kremlin insider to be $40 billion.

It is a brave journalist who undertakes to write a critical – not to say overtly hostile – biography of Putin, in a country where press freedom is severely circumscribed, self-censorship a useful survival mechanism, and where those who have written disobligingly about Putin and his close allies, or dug too deeply into the corruption endemic in Russian politics and business, have often come to grief. In her years as a journalist, Gessen herself has been threatened, intimidated and burgled.

You can read the rest of the interesting piece via the below link:

Friday, February 24, 2012

Hello It's Me: A Taste Of Todd Rundgren

I've enjoyed Todd Rundgren's music since the 1960s. The talented singer-songwriter, musician, performer and record producer is from Upper Darby, PA, a suburb of  Philadelphia.

Thanks to, we can listen to his music and watch him perform.

Below are some of my favorite songs from back in the day:

Hello It's Me:

I Saw the Light:

We Got to Get You a Woman:

Todd Rundgren & Utopia's Love is the Answer:

Todd Rundgren & Utopia's The Freak Parade:

Joe Jackson & Todd Rungren's cover of While My Guiter Gently Weeps:

Bang the Drum:

U.S. Army Charges Private Bradley E. Manning With Leaking Intelligence

The U.S. Army News Service released the below information:
FORT MEADE, Md., Feb. 24, 2012 - Army Pfc. Bradley E. Manning was arraigned here yesterday on 22 charges that include wrongfully releasing intelligence, theft of records and aiding the enemy.
Manning elected to defer his plea and also to defer the forum selection for his court-martial -- whether he will be tried by a judge or a panel. The court set a tentative date of March 15 or 16 for the next session to hear pretrial motions.
Manning was charged with aiding the enemy in violation of Article 104 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. He also was charged with 16 specifications under Article 134 of the UCMJ: wrongfully causing intelligence to be published on the Internet knowing that it is accessible to the enemy.
He was charged with five specifications of theft of public property or records, in violation of 18 U.S. Code 641; eight specifications of transmitting defense information, in violation of 18 USC 793(e); two specifications of fraud and related activity in connection with computers in violation of 18 USC 1030(a)(1); and five specifications under UCMJ Article 92 for violating Army regulations 25-2, Information Assurance, and 380-5, Department of the Army Information Security Program.
If convicted of all charges against him, Manning would face a maximum punishment of reduction to the lowest enlisted pay grade, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, confinement for life and a dishonorable discharge.
Most of the 16 specifications against Article 134 relate to Manning giving "intelligence to the enemy, through indirect means" while at Contingency Operating Station Hammer, Iraq, between November 2009 and May 2010. He is charged with sharing illegally accessed intelligence with "a person not entitled to receive it."
Specification 10 of Article 134 says Manning obtained and then divulged five classified records relating to a military operation in Afghanistan's Farah province on or about May 4, 2009, with reason to believe the information could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation.

Yazuza Godfather Targeted In U.S. Crackdown On Crime Gangs

Terje Langeland at Businessweek reports on the Obama administration' crackdown on Japanese organized crime.
Japan’s yakuza organized-crime groups, having operated openly in their home country for more than a century, are facing tougher treatment by an overseas foe: the U.S. Obama administration.
The largest of Japan’s yakuza organizations, the Yamaguchi- gumi, and two of its leaders will have their U.S. assets frozen and transactions barred under sanctions announced yesterday by the Treasury Department. The group earns “billions of dollars” a year from crimes in Japan and abroad, including drug and human trafficking, prostitution, money laundering and fraud, the department said in a statement.
You can read the rest of the story via the below link:
Yakuza Godfather Kenichi Shinoda appears in the above photo.   

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Communist Chinese Use Cyberwarfare Attacks To Prepare For A Future High-Tecnology War Against The U.S., Admiral Says

Bill Gertz, the veteran national security reporter, wrote an interesting piece for the Washington Times on how the Communist Chinese are preparing for cyberwar.

Chinese cyberattacks and electronic intrusion into U.S. computer networks in peacetime are part of the preparations for a future high-technology war against the United States, according to the U.S. Pacific Command's new commander.

China's military also plans to disrupt U.S. military and civilian computer networks by attacking satellites in space, as well as ground-based networks, according to Admiral Samuel J. Locklear III, who was confirmed by the Senate last week to be the next commander of the U.S. Pacific Command.

You can read the rest of the story via the below link:

Hemingway's Boyhood Home For Sale

Bob Goldsborough at the Chicago Tribune reports that Ernest Hemingway's boyhood home is up for sale.

The Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park has placed the legendary author’s boyhood home in Oak Park up for sale for $525,000.

... Built in 1906, the house was designed by architect Henry G. Fiddelke with help from from Hemingway’s mother, Grace Hall Hemingway.

Hemingway’s family moved from another house in Oak Park to the house, at 600 N. Kenilworth Ave., in 1906, and the author lived there with his family until he enlisted in World War I.

He returned to the house in 1919 to recover from serious war wounds.

You can read the rest of the story via the below link:,0,3189066.story 

Syria Murders Legendary American Journalist

Marie Colvin is not the first war correspondent to die in combat. Covering wars can be a dangerous occupation.

But the legendary American journalist (seen in the above photo), who was covering the revolt in Syria for London's Sunday Times, was reportedly targeted by the Syrian military of dictator Bashar al-Assad. She was murdered by shells aimed at the make-shift press center where Colvin operated in the City of Homs.

In my view, the U.S. should be assisting the rebels with arms, medical equipment and other logistics in their fight against Assad

You can read the New York Post report about Marie Colvin's murder via the below link:

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

U.S., African Forces Mitigate Terror Group's Impact

By Lisa Daniel, American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 22, 2012 - U.S. special operations forces are helping four Central African nations reduce the size and lethality of the Lord's Resistance Army, a group that has terrorized the region for 25 years, U.S. officials said today.
Navy Rear Adm. Brian L. Losey, commander of Special Operations Command Africa, said in a conference call with reporters that the LRA is down to about 200 core fighters. Karly Wycoff, deputy assistant secretary of state for African affairs, also participated in the call.
While still under the direction of its leader, Joseph Kony, the admiral said, the group is kept on the run in the remote, shared border region of South Sudan, Uganda, Central Africa Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo -- an area about the size of California.
President Barack Obama ordered about 100 special operations forces to deploy to Central Africa in October to train and augment the capabilities of the African militaries in the region.
The U.S. effort to help the four-nation partnership counter the LRA is a comprehensive, multi-faceted strategy that has included training, funding, airlift, logistics, communications and intelligence support -- specifically, fusing intelligence and support to operations, Losey and Wycoff said.
"With our support, these four military forces continue to make progress in reducing the LRA's numbers and keep them from regrouping," Wycoff said.
U.S. forces also are working closely with the State Department, the United Nations, the African Union and nongovernmental organizations to provide humanitarian relief in the region, Wycoff said.
"The military is only one part of a broader strategy," Wycoff said. A large part of the strategy is to entice LRA members to defect and safely return home, with the help of government and aid organizations, he said, and to publicize those defections.
"One of the sad realities of this situation is that many of the perpetrators of these [LRA] atrocities were victims themselves, abducted in their childhood and forced to fight," he said.
Wycoff likened Kony and his followers to a cult that has kidnapped and murdered civilians for two decades, causing an estimated 455,000 people to be displaced or to live as refugees. The LRA is not known to be involved in any money-making criminal enterprise, he said, but survives off foraging and pillaging of villages.
The LRA is implicated in 278 attacks and at least 300 abductions last year, which decreased at the end of the year, they said.
"Now they are only a small percentage of their former strength," Losey said. But the fact that the LRA is operating at all, even at reduced strength, is terrifying to people in the region, he added.
Losey said the removal of Kony is one of the chief objectives in a broader mission to enable the four partner nations to be fully capable to counter the LRA. Though there is no timeline for the U.S. mission, he added, it also is not open-ended.
"We want to make very clear that we are supporting, and not leading, this effort," he said.
The fact that the four African nations came together for the effort to defeat the LRA is an achievement, Losey said.
"This operation is at its core what U.S. Africa Command is all about," he said. "In the long run, it is the Africans who are best suited to address" their regional security challenges.

On Guard Against WMD: Inside The FBI's Countermeasures Unit, Part 1

The FBI web site offers an interesting look at the organization's Countermeasures Unit. 

In 2006, to counter the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction (WMD), the FBI established the WMD Directorate. The directorate combines law enforcement investigative authorities, intelligence analysis capabilities, and technical subject matter expertise in a coordinated approach to deal with incidents involving nuclear, radiological, biological, or chemical weapons. The organization places substantial emphasis on preventing such incidents.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

A Look Back At Bernard Lee, The Actor Who Was M

MI6, the James Bond web site, not the British intelligence agency, offers a look back at the late Bernard Lee, the wonderfully gruff old actor who portrayed Ian Fleming's character M, James Bond's wonderfully gruff old boss in the Bond film series.

James Bond's relationship with his chief is a complex and paternal one. He is regularly summoned to the plush office on the top floor of the MI6 headquarters for a stern briefing wherein "M" typically survey's his top double-0 operative severely and instructs him on his latest mission. Yet, behind the authoritarian demeanor, M cares for Bond and the service, having given his life to the intelligence forces. Bond affectionally refers to his chief as 'The Old Man', but only when he believes M to be out of earshot.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Note: Commander Ian Fleming served as the personal assistant to the director of British Naval Intelligence in WWII. He served two directors during the course of the war and the first was Royal Navy Admiral John Godfrey. Many have noted that Fleming based M on Admiral Godfrey.

Also, the piece fails to mention that Bernard Lee also appeared in Carol Reed and Graham Greene's classic film The Third Man with Orson Welles and Joseph Cotten.

Lee appears in the above photo as M as he addresses Sean Connery as James Bond in From Russia With Love.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Why The FBI Might Soon Cut Off Your Internet

Dave Johnson at offers a piece on how the FBI is dealing with "malware" that Estonian hackers placed on American computers.

Estonian hackers have infected millions of PCs across the U.S. with "malware," which could lead the FBI to take the drastic and unprecedented measure of cutting off some people's Internet access on March 8. Fortunately, there's still time to see if you're affected and take action before that deadline.

The malware (which stands for "malicious software") in question is called DNSChanger Trojan. As the name suggests, it is a program that hijacks your so-called domain name system server -- the technology that lets computers find Web addresses -- manipulating search results and controlling the sites your computer visits. It also blocks anti-virus software and Microsoft Updates.

To read the rest of this piece click on the link below:

As noted in the piece, you can visit to check and see if your computer is infected.  

'Act Of Valor' Star Roselyn Sanchez Perferred Working With Navy SEALs To Hollywood Actors

Hollie McKay at offers an interesting piece on the new film Act of Valor.

An unprecedented action-adventure film,“Act of Valor” stars a group of active-duty U.S. Navy SEALs in a fictionalized portrayal of real anti-terrorism operations. But for star Roselyn Sanchez, who plays a CIA operative held captive, it wasn’t just the story line that piqued her interest – it was also a welcome change to star alongside real American servicemen as opposed to Hollywood actors.

You can read the rest of the story and watcha video clip via the below link:

Monday, February 20, 2012

'The Comedy Is Finished,' A Time-Capsule Crime Caper By The Late Donald E. Westlake

I've been reading Donald E. Westlake's crime novels since I was a teenager. I believe I read my first Westlake novel, The Busy Body, in the early 1960s.

So I think it was good of him to leave us with a posthumous crime novel called The Comedy is Finished. I have a copy of the novel and I plan to read it soon.

I also like that Westlake's publisher, Hard Case Crime, uses  old-school crime book covers that feature beautiful, half-naked girls and guns. I recall vividly the thrill of picking up many a paperback crime thriller with these provocative covers when I was a teenager.    

Patrick Anderson's review of Westlake's novel appears in the Washington Post.

“The Comedy Is Finished” is one of the best Westlake novels I’ve read. I think it has one major problem that arises from its appearing three decades after it was written, but that won’t bother everyone. No dates are mentioned, but the story is clearly set in the late 1970s. Five Vietnam-era radicals — think of them as remnants of the Weathermen — kidnap a famous comedian called Koo Davis, who, like Bob Hope, is famous for his film comedies, USO shows and snarky humor. The terrorists announce that they’ll kill the supposedly beloved comedian unless the authorities release 10 other radicals from prison.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Songs From Youth Revisited

In my last post I linked to a piece by a British writer who claimed that he'd rather watch an old Sherlock Holmes film from his youth than a modern mystery.

This lead me to think of my late father.

When I was a kid growing up in South Philadelphia my father, a child of the Depression and a World War II veteran, had a workshop in our basement where he would spend most Saturday afternoons playing old records on an old record player.

I got a kick out of hearing the old songs, as did my older brother, because the songs were to us from the Stone Age - the 1940s and 1950s.

The only "modern" songs he played were Barry Sadler's 1966 The Ballad of the Green Berets and Brook Benton's 1961 The Boll Weevil Song.

I still recall hearing Frankie Laine's The Kid's Last Fight, Jean Shepard and Ferlin Husky's Dear John and other songs from my father's youth that he played over and over.

And now that I've passed my father's age, it amuses me that I find myself in my South Philadelphia basement office & library, playing songs from my youth, such as the Beatles, the Animals, Motown, Chicago, Steely Dan, Doobie Brothers and other groups from my teens in the 1960s and my 20s in the 1970s. (I listen to smooth jazz and other modern music as well).

Thanks to we can revisit songs from our youth and listen to songs from our parents' youth.

You can listen to Frankie Laine's The Kid's Last Fight via the below link:

Jean Shepard and Ferlin Husky's Dear John:

Brook Benton's The Boll Weevil Song:

Barry Sadler's The Ballad of the Green Berets:

And some songs from my youth:

The Beatles' Yesterday:

The Beatles' Abbey Road Medley:

The Four Tops' Baby, I Need Your Lovein':

The Temptations' My Girl:

The Animals' The House of the Rising Sun:

The Rolling Stones' Satisfaction:

John Barry's theme song from Goldfinger:

Chicago's Beginnings:

Chicago's Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?:

Steely Dan's Reelin' In the Years:

Steely Dan's Deacon Blues:

The Doobie Brothers' Echoes of Love:

The Doobie Brothers' Minute By Minute:

Boz Scaggs' Lowdown:

And from my clubbing and dancing days in the 1970s:

Chic's Le Freak:

France Joli's Come To Me:

Donna Summer's I Feel Love:

The Trammps' Disco Inferno:

Thelma Huston's Don't Ask to Stay Until Tomorrow from Looking For Mr Goodbar:

Why I'd Rather See An Old Sherlock Holmes Than A Modern Myster, British Writer Says

I watch modern film and TV and read new books, but I also like rereading old books and watching old movies from my youth.

So I was pleased to come across a piece by Graeme Archer in the British newspaper the Telegraph about how he would rather see an old Sherlock Holmes film than a modern mystery.

You can read the piece via the below link:

Friday, February 17, 2012

Like A Thunderball: Sir Tom Jones' Still Powerful Voice Opens The British BAFTA Film Award Ceremony With A Tribute To 50 Years Of James Bond Films

Opening the BAFTA award ceremony in the United Kingdom with a tribute to 50 years of James Bond films, Sir Tom Jones sang the theme song to the 1965 James Bond film Thunderball while under a huge screen projecting a selection of scenes from the Bond films.

You can watch a video of Sir Tom Jones at BAFTA via the below link:

You can also hear Sir Tom Jones sing John Barry and Don Black's song in the opening title sequence of the film Thunderball via the below link:

And yes, the women swiming in the title sequence are nude.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

This Day In U.S. Navy History: Stephen Decatur Recaptured USS Philadelphia In Tripoli Harbor In 1804

On this day in 1804 U.S. Navy hero Stephen Decatur recaptured the USS Philadelphia in Tripoli harbor and destroyed the ship to keep her out of the hands of the Tripoli pirates.

You can read more about Stephen Decatur via the below link:

Underwear Bomber Sentenced To Life In Prison For Attempted Bombing Of Flight 253 On Christmas Day 2009

The U.S. Justice Department released the below information today:

WASHINGTON – Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab (seen in the above photo), the so-called “underwear bomber,” was sentenced today to life in prison as a result of his guilty plea to all eight counts of a federal indictment charging him for his role in the attempted Christmas Day 2009 bombing of Northwest Airlines flight 253.
The sentence, handed down by U.S. District Court Judge Nancy G. Edmunds in Detroit, was announced by Attorney General Eric Holder; Barbara L. McQuade, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan; Andrew G. Arena, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Detroit Field Office; and Brian M. Moskowitz, Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Detroit.
Abdulmutallab, 25, of Kaduna, Nigeria, pleaded guilty on Oct. 12, 2011, to conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism transcending national boundaries; attempted murder within the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States; willfully placing a destructive device on an aircraft, which was likely to have endangered the safety of the aircraft; attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction; willfully attempting to destroy and wreck a civil aircraft; and three counts of possession of a destructive device in furtherance of a crime of violence.
“As this investigation and prosecution have shown, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is a remorseless terrorist who believes it is his duty to kill Americans. For attempting to take the lives of 289 innocent people, he has been appropriately sentenced to serve every day of the rest of his life in prison,” said Attorney General Holder. “Today’s sentence once again underscores the effectiveness of the criminal justice system in both incapacitating terrorists and gathering valuable intelligence from them.”
“On behalf of the victims, we are gratified that this al-Qaeda terrorist has been defeated and will spend the rest of his life in prison, where he can never hurt innocent civilians again,” U.S. Attorney McQuade said. “I am very proud of the work of our prosecutors and agents in Detroit. Their work shows that the civilian court system is a valuable mechanism for obtaining intelligence and convicting terrorists with the legal certainty and transparency that instills public confidence in American justice.”
“The case against Abdulmutallab was a combination of the hard work and dedication of FBI personnel as well as multiple federal, state and local agencies. Those individuals who experienced Christmas Day 2009 first hand should be rest assured that justice has been done.” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Arena.
“When it counted most, under pressure and in the heat of the moment, the metro Detroit law enforcement community responded as one and acted decisively,” said HSI Special Agent in Charge Moskowitz. “Their collective actions epitomized the concept of ‘one team, one fight’ and showed the power of collaboration in the protection of our homeland.”
According to the indictment filed in this case, in August 2009, Abdulmutallab traveled to Yemen for the purpose of becoming involved in violent “jihad” on behalf of al-Qaeda. There, he conspired with other al-Qaeda members to bomb a U.S. aircraft over U.S. soil and received an explosive device for that purpose. Abdulmutallab traveled with the bomb concealed in his underwear from Yemen to Africa and then to Amsterdam, the Netherlands, where he boarded Flight 253 on Christmas Day 2009. The bomb contained PETN and TATP, two high explosives, and was designed to be detonated with a syringe containing other chemicals.
Abdulmutallab’s purpose in taking the bomb on board Flight 253 was to detonate it during flight, causing the plane to crash and killing the 290 passengers and crew members on board. As Flight 253 was on descent into Detroit Metropolitan Airport, the defendant detonated the bomb, which resulted in a fire, but otherwise did not fully explode. Passengers and flight attendants tackled the defendant and extinguished the fire.
This investigation was conducted by the Detroit Joint Terrorism Task Force, which is led by the FBI and includes U.S. Customs and Border Protection, HSI, the Federal Air Marshal Service and other law enforcement agencies. Additional assistance has been provided by the Transportation Security Administration, the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security, the Wayne County Airport police, as well as international law enforcement partners.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jonathan Tukel, Cathleen M. Corken and Michael C. Martin of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan, with assistance from the Counterterrorism Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.
To view or download the government video exhibit introduced in court during today’s sentencing hearing, visit: .

Frederick Forsyth Wins The 2012 Diamond Dagger Award

The Crime Writers' Association released the below announcement today:

The CWA has today announced the 2012 winner of its prestigious Diamond Dagger award, with the honor going to thriller writer Frederick Forsyth.

Chair of the CWA Peter James said, “Frederick Forsyth is a hugely deserving recipient and The Day of the Jackal remains one of the greatest thrillers of our times. He has set a new standard of research-based authenticity with his writing, which has had a major influence both on my work and on many of my contemporaries in the crime and thriller field. We are very thrilled that he has accepted this award.”

Frederick Forsyth, former RAF pilot and investigative journalist, defined the modern thriller when he wrote The Day of The Jackal, with its lightning-paced storytelling, effortlessly cool reality and unique insider information. Since then he has written ten further bestselling novels, most recently, The Afghan. He lives in Hertfordshire, England.

The Diamond Dagger recipient is chosen each year by the CWA committee, from a shortlist nominated by the membership. Shortlisted authors must meet two essential criteria: first, their careers must be marked by sustained excellence, and second, they must have made a significant contribution to crime fiction published in the English language, whether originally or in translation. The award is made purely on merit without reference to age, gender or nationality. The Diamond Dagger will be presented to Frederick Forsyth at an award ceremony later this year.

Note: You can read my online On Crime & Thrillers column on Frederick Forsyth via the below link:

Former New England Cosa Nostra Organized Crime Boss, Capo And Associates To Pled Guilty In Rhode Island For Racketeering Activity

The U.S. Justice Department released the below information today:

WASHINGTON – Five Rhode Island men previously identified as leaders or associates of the New England organized crime family of the La Cosa Nostra (NELCN) have agreed to plead guilty to racketeering-related charges, according to documents filed today with the U.S. district court in Providence, R.I. 
The announcement was made by Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Peter F. Neronha for the District of Rhode Island; Richard DesLauriers, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Boston Field Office; Colonel Steven G. O’Donnell, Superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police; and Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven M. Pare.
The defendants were charged in a second superseding indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Providence in September 2011, which alleges their participation in an extortion and racketeering conspiracy involving “protection” payments from several Rhode Island businesses. The defendants face sentences of up to 20 years in prison and fines of up to $250,000.
According to plea agreements signed by the defendants and filed with the court, Luigi “Baby Shacks” Manocchio (seen in the above mugshot); Edward “Eddy” Lato; Alfred “Chippy” Scivola; and Richard Bonafiglia will plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to participate in a racketeering enterprise. Raymond R. Jenkins will plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to participate in a Hobbs Act extortion.
According to the plea agreements, in addition to admitting to their criminal conduct, Manocchio, Lato and Scivola admit to their membership in the enterprise charged in the second superseding indictment, which is the NELCN. In addition, in their signed plea agreements, Manocchio and Lato admit to being organizers and leaders of the enterprise’s criminal activity. As alleged in the indictment, Manocchio was an underboss and boss of the NELCN and Lato was an NELCN capo, primarily responsible for Rhode Island. Lato also admitted in his plea agreement to related extortion activity charged in the indictment.
Theodore Cardillo and Albino “Albie” Folcarelli, also named in the second superseding indictment and identified as alleged associates of the NELCN, are scheduled for trial on April 23, 2012.
An indictment is merely an allegation and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
An eighth defendant named in a previous superseding indictment in this matter, Thomas Iafrate, of Johnston, R.I., pleaded guilty on July 21, 2011, to one count of conspiracy to participate in a racketeering enterprise. He also admitted that he was an associate of the NELCN. Iafrate was sentenced in December 2011 to 30 months in federal prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release.
The cases are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney William J. Ferland for the District of Rhode Island and Trial Attorney Sam Nazzaro of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section. The matter was investigated by the FBI, Rhode Island State Police, Providence Police and Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation.

U.S. Faces Broad Spectrum Of Threats, Intel Leaders Say

By Lisa Daniel, American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 16, 2012 - The United States and its allies face a broad spectrum of national security threats from terrorism, nuclear proliferation and cyber attacks, intelligence leaders told Congress members today.

Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper and Defense Intelligence Agency Director Army Lt. Gen. Ronald L. Burgess Jr.(seen in the above DoD photo) provided their worldwide threat assessments to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Clapper listed countering terrorism, nuclear proliferation and cyber threats, as well as counterintelligence, as being at the forefront of national security concerns. But, he added, "it is virtually impossible to rank – in terms of long-term importance – the numerous potential threats to U.S. national security."

Unlike in the Cold War days of having a single, large adversary, Clapper said, "it is the multiplicity and interconnectedness of potential threats – and the actors behind them – that constitute our biggest challenge."

Burgess cited a "broad spectrum of dissimilar threats," including rising regional powers and highly adaptive and resilient transnational terrorist networks.

Intelligence shows the next three years will be a critical transition time in counterterrorism, as groups like al-Qaida diminish in importance and terrorist groups become more decentralized, Clapper said.

U.S. counterterrorism has caused al-Qaida to lose so many top lieutenants since 2008 "that a new group of leaders, even if they could be found, would have difficulty integrating into the organization and compensating for mounting losses," the director said. Al-Qaida's regional affiliates in Iraq, the Arabian peninsula and North Africa are expected to "surpass the remnants of core al-Qaida in Pakistan," he said.

With continued, robust counterterrorism efforts and cooperation from international partners, Clapper said, "there is a better-than-even chance that decentralization will lead to fragmentation of the movement within a few years," although he added that terrorist groups will continue to be a dangerous transnational force.

Intense counterterrorism pressure has made it unlikely that a terrorist group would launch a chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear mass attack against the United States in the next year, Clapper said, but groups such as al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula continue to show interest in such an attack. Most terrorist groups, however, remain locally focused, Clapper said, noting that al-Qaida in Iraq remains focused on overthrowing the Shiia-led government in Baghdad in favor of a Sunni-led government.

In Africa, the al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb and al-Shabaab organizations struggle with internal divisions and outside support, and have been diminished by government and military pressure in Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia, he said.

Clapper also said that extremist "lone actors," including criminals and homegrown terrorists, continue to be a concern inside the United States. The intelligence community, he added, will stay alert to events that might precipitate an attack, such as a perceived anti-Islamic bias, military involvement in another Muslim country, or unrest overseas.

In Afghanistan, Clapper noted that the transition of security is successful so far in the first two phases. His assessment, he told the committee, is that the government in Kabul will continue to make "incremental, fragile progress" this year in governance, security and development that is dependent on the support of international partners.

The Taliban still are resilient, and NATO's International Security Assistance Force will remain essential at least through the end of this year, Clapper said. Enduring stability depends heavily on support from neighboring states such as Pakistan, he added, especially since many European governments harbor doubts about extending financial help past 2014.

The Taliban have lost influence in the past year, mostly where ISAF forces are concentrated, but its senior leaders continue to enjoy safe havens in Pakistan, the director said.

Al-Qaida's impact on the Afghan insurgency "is limited," he said, and it most often works with other insurgent groups that don't depend on foreign fighters.

Clapper cited incremental improvements with governments operating in most provinces of Afghanistan. However, he said, provinces still struggle to provide essential services, and access to official governance mostly is limited to urban areas, leaving much of the rural areas isolated.

The director acknowledged the intelligence view is somewhat more pessimistic than that of U.S. military leaders in Afghanistan, but he said that is not unusual. "I don't find it a bad thing," he said. "In fact, I think it's healthy that there is a contrast between what the operational commanders believe and what the intelligence community assesses."

Burgess cited "endemic corruption and inefficiencies" in the Afghan army and police that he said are undermining security efforts. Afghan forces rely on ISAF for logistics, intelligence and transportation and will need sustained mentoring and support, he said.

In Iraq, Burgess said, Iraqi security forces have maintained security since U.S. troops left the country in December and probably will sustain that through the next year. But, he said, Iraqi forces still need training in a number of areas, including logistics, intelligence, and on new equipment purchased from the United States.

The Iraqi forces have demonstrated their ability to "put forces on the street, conduct static security of high-profile sites, operate checkpoints and conduct intelligence-driven targeting," Burgess said. But, he added, numerous security vulnerabilities remain due to manning shortages, logistical shortfalls and overly centralized command and control.

Weapons proliferation continues to be a concern, an increasingly among non-nation states, Clapper said. "Biological and chemical materials and technologies, almost always dual-use, move easily in our globalized economy, as do the personnel with scientific expertise to design and use them," he said. "The latest discoveries in life sciences diffuse globally and rapidly."

Still, intelligence shows no nation states have provided weapons of mass destruction assistance to terrorist groups, and no nonstate actors are targeting WMD sites in countries with unrest, the director said. But that could change as governments become more unstable, he added.

Middle East security largely will depend on how things work out for countries where governments were toppled in the Arab Spring, such as Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, Clapper said. The possible collapse of the Syrian government would have broad implications throughout the Middle East, both intelligence leaders told the senators.

The two also outlined threats from nations such as Iran and North Korea.

The pair told the committee they could not say whether Iran is developing nuclear weapons --, only that it "is keeping open the option" by developing nuclear capabilities that better position it to do so. Also, they said, Iran is expanding its uranium enrichment capabilities, which can be used either for civil or weapons purposes, but the amount enriched so far does not appear to be weapons grade.

Intelligence shows that Iran is capable of producing nuclear weapons as well as the ballistic missiles to carry them, "making the central issue its political will to do so," Clapper said.

For now, Burgess said, "We assess that Tehran is not close to agreeing to abandon its nuclear program."

Iran increasingly has shown a willingness to conduct attacks outside its borders, and any future attacks probably will be shaped by Tehran's cost-benefit analysis of an attack, as well as their perceptions of U.S. threats against the regime, Clapper said. Because of that, he said, the international community still can influence Iran's decisions, noting that increasingly tough economic sanctions seem to be working.

"Iran can close the Strait of Hormuz, at least temporarily," and may launch nuclear weapons against U.S. forces in the area if attacked, Burgess said. He added, though, that the agency believes Iran is unlikely to initiate an attack.

In North Korea, the government views its nuclear capabilities as intended for deterrence, international prestige, and coercive diplomacy, Clapper said. Its nuclear weapons and missile programs pose a serious threat in East Asia, and leaders in Pyongyang have shown in the past their willingness to export them to places such as Iran and Syria, he said.

Still, Clapper said, intelligence analysts assessed that North Korea would consider using nuclear weapons only under narrow circumstances, including a military defeat or loss of control.

Meanwhile, Clapper and Burgess said cyber attacks, while largely invisible to the public, are growing in scale and sophistication, and largely come from China and Russia against U.S. corporations and government sites.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

My Piece On The Vietnam War And The Lessons Learned For Iraq, Afghanistan And The War On Terrorism

My piece on the Vietnam War and the lessons learned for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan appears in the current issue of Counterterrorism magazine.

In my piece I offer the views of  Raymond K. Bluhm, a retired Army Colonel and the editor of The Vietnam War: A Chronology of War and Philip Jennings, a former Marine Captain helicopter pilot and the author of The Politically Incorrect Guide To the Vietnam War. 

You can read my piece below:

Above is a photo of the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk on Yankee Station off the coast of Vietnam.

Below is a current photo of Philip Jennings and a photo of him when he was in Vietnam:

Below is a current photo of Raymond K. Bluhm and a photo of him in Vietnam:

My Q & A With Ronald Kessler, Author of 'The Secrets Of The FBI'

My Q&A with veteran journalist and author Ronald Kessler (seen in the above photo) appears in the current issue of  Counterterrorism magazine.

Kessler has written several books on the Secret Service, the CIA and the FBI and his current book is called The Secrets of the FBI (Crown).

You can read my interview with Ronald Kessler below: